Utilizing the strength of an inside game and a dominating defense, Morristown powered its way to a Class A girls basketball sectional championship on the Yellow Jackets’ home floor Saturday night by defeating Greenwood Christian Academy, 55-31.
With three skilled post players, Morristown’s game plan was simple — pound it down low and let seniors Michaela Kikendall, Haley Hart and Lindsay Blankenship do the rest.
And when they weren’t converting easy layups, they got to the free-throw line.
“Our kids did as good of a job that they possibly could. They just got outmatched and out-muscled,” said Cougars third-year coach Alan Weems.
Greenwood Christian in only its ninth full season since joining the IHSAA in 2006, made it a game in the first quarter by jumping out to a 14-7 lead.
But after the Yellow Jackets made key adjustments on defense, Morristown assumed a 15-14 edge at the end of the first quarter and never looked back.
Plagued with early foul trouble, Cougars junior captain Hannah Peters was forced to the bench with 3:06 left in the half, which left a huge gap on both offense and defense.
With Peters out of the game, Greenwood Christian never got into any kind of offensive rhythm.
Kikendall, who had a game-high 29 points and seven rebounds, also knocked down a pair of 3-pointers to extend the Yellow Jackets lead in the second half.
Meanwhile, Hart added 11 points and Blankenship chipped in eight, all coming within point-blank range.
For Greenwood Christian, sophomore Sydney Buis was the only player in double-figures with 17 points. Peters and junior Bri Lawrence each had six.
Despite the loss, Weems said the team’s work ethic and togetherness from the start of preseason practice to the very end has paid off.
“Our kids felt like we were going to win this game. They didn’t come in with the idea of finishing second, and if you were in our locker room right now, you’d see how many tears are in there,” he said.
“All these kids are going to be back next year with the exception of senior Kate Harris, who has been one incredible leader over the years. These three games in the sectional that we got a chance to play should pay dividends.”
This was only the second time in school history the Cougars have made it to the sectional championship, the other being in 2010 when they fell to Waldron.
After finishing a dismal 1-20 a year ago, Greenwood Christian finished with a 14-12 record overall and 2-3 in the Pioneer Academic Athletic Conference.
The 14 victories tied the number of wins during the 2009-10 season.
Weems said the team’s achievements of this season are many but emphasized the Cougars still have specific goals in mind for what is ahead.
“Our kids held their composure and grew up a lot this year, especially our two starting freshmen, who handled handled themselves very well. With the kind of dedication these kids have, I really believe the sky is the limit. We ramp things up every year,” Weems said.
“When you build a program, you can’t do it all at one time, and next year we’re going to take a couple more steps in that building process.”
By winning its second consecutive sectional championship, Morristown (17-8) advances to the four-team Class A regional at Southwestern (Shelby) where it will play Jac-Cen-Del on Saturday.